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TIP: Wash Off Stripper Wax

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Directions on cans of paint-and-varnish remover instruct to “neutralize” the stripper as a final step. This is misleading and often leads to finishing problems.

The instruction is misleading because there is nothing in paint strippers that needs to be neutralized. “Neutralizing” refers to acids and bases, not solvents.

What needs to be done with all paint strippers sold in metal cans is remove the wax they contain. Manufacturers add wax to these products to retard evaporation so the stripper remains in contact with the paint or finish longer. This wax will retard the drying and weaken the bonding of most finishes. You should wash off the wax before applying a finish.

Washing is different from neutralizing. Washing means thoroughly wetting and drying off the surface several times. Neutralizing means just wiping over the surface with a damp cloth that is acidic or alkaline.

You can use any number of solvents to wash off the wax residue, but mineral spirits (paint thinner) is the least expensive, stays wet on the surface longer and is just as effective, or even more so, than naphtha, denatured alcohol or lacquer thinner.



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